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Monday, March 29, 2004

You Say You'll Change The Constitution...

I'm still sort of proud of my home state..er..commonwealth, although it's tempered a bit. Hard to figure what to make of the latest approved amendment language. It's something of a credit to the state legislature that nothing that would leave even the chance of a total denial of any recognition of same-sex couples can't get through; in most states, debates over this issue end up by and large degenerating into lopsided gay-bashing sessions.

It was heartening to see how many of the state's elected officials weren't cowed by the fear or ignorance of some of their constituents or colleagues, even if not every vote went the progressives' way. It was great to see my old neighborhood's legislators, Sen. Chandler and Rep. Spillane, do the right thing.

The Amendment would come up for a referendum vote in 2006, assuming it is able to survive a second vote in the Legislature that year.

The wrinkle here, however, is that the Attorney General Reilly doesn't want to do Governor Romney's bidding as far as asking for a stay of the Supreme Judicial Court's order, which said that towns could start issuing same-sex couples marriage licenses on May 17, 2004. It's not immediately clear what the implications are, but many legal analysts suggest that the SJC, with or without Reilly spearheading the challenge, would be highly unlikely to stay their ruling for over two years.

Incidentally, May 17, 2004, is the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Incredibly, I missed this until it was pointed out to me. It was a nice piece of symbolism. Those asking for a referendum on the issue might be asked to consider what might have happened had bans on segregation or interracial marriage been put on the ballot.

I have to admit that my position has changed a little in the past few months. At first, I was willing to accept almost any change from the past gladly. Civil unions would provide only a small fraction of the legal benefits accrued to marriage, and would carry no clout outside the borders of Massachusetts, but it's better than nothing.

But I looked at the photos from San Francisco and thought to myself how I could ask people who had been together for 20, 30, 40 years or more, to be patient and pragmatic and lay down just a little bit longer just so someone my age or younger might someday take for granted what they were fighting like hell for.

Or how anyone with a heart could demand that their state force people who had been married to get divorced, supposedly to "strengthen the institution of marriage."

I can promise people in Massachusetts that same-sex marriage will not end the world. It will not cause straight people to decide not to get married. Maybe enough voters, given two years, will overcome their squeamishness and do the right thing.


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